When I'm Grown Up

  • Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • “Urge the young men to be sensible.” Titus 2:6

    Growing old is easy…growing up is hard.

    “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, I think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” 1 Cor 13:11

    Growing old is easy…growing up is hard.

    Our Creator designed us for seasons. Sociologists and other scientists have given these “seasons” names: Infancy, early childhood, pre-adolescence, adolescence, early adulthood (now apparently delayed till age 26), adulthood, mid-life, etc. Our children’s ministry team has actually assigned them rooms!

    • Infants: “We shall not all sleep, but we SHALL all be changed!”
    • Crawlers: “Someday every knee shall bow and every tongue confess…”
    • Toddlers: “But walk in a manner worthy…”
    • Preschoolers: “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble…”
    • Elementary: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice, have their senses trained…”
    • Youth: “How shall a young man keep his way pure?”
    • Young Adults: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness…”
    • Seasoned Saints: “Older men are to be…older women likewise…”
    • Living Models: “The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
    Growing old is easy. You just have to live long enough! But growing up…that is hard work!

    When I’m Sixty-Four

  • Tuesday, February 22, 2011
  • When you read the title of this sermon When I’m Sixty-Four, did you think "when will that be" or did you hear a little clarinet introduction to a Beatles’ tune? There are so many "ages and stages" in life, each with their own challenges and possibilities. In writing to Titus, Paul (in chapter 2) addresses specific "ages" as well as "stages"…

    • "older men" (beginning in Titus 2:2)
    • "older women" (beginning in Titus 2:3)
    • "young women" (Titus 2:4)
    • "young men" (Titus 2:6)
    • "employees and employers" (Titus 2:9)
    God desires that His gospel of salvation regenerate His creation to become a people who live out this "good news". "Doctrine and duty" is a God-willed "cause and effect"…

    And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

    Teaching the “whole purpose of God” means:

    • The fullness of divine revelation
    • The ethics of good theology
    "Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance." Titus 2:2

    The spiritually mature man needs to be characterized as being…

    Temperate – sober, abstaining, not because he ‘can’t’ but because by enjoying freedoms and liberties in moderation, or perhaps even surrendering them, he does not cause others to stumble…
    "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." 1Corinthians 10:23

    Dignified – to be devout, serious, honorable, at the root, to worship. The dignified man lives in a way that demonstrates that he lives in light of eternity...
    “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

    Sensible – sound in thinking and judgment and self-controlled….
    “Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity; and clothe yourself with honor and majesty” Job 40:10

    These three qualities and ‘paired’ with three commitments… The spiritually mature man is…

    • sound in faith (trusting God)
    • sound in love (serving others above self)
    • sound in perseverance (hope) waiting patiently for the Kingdom to come!
    So how does one aspire to the impossible? These characteristics and commitments seem so out of reach! They are if we rely on self, but with God, all things are possible! So how?

    Be Teachable
       "A poor, yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction." Ecclesiastes 4:13

    Be Observable
       “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” Titus 2:7

    Be Available
       “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

    So to return to Tom’s sermon title, the song asks the question…
       Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?

    But the real question is, who will you be feeding?
       Who will be needing (and benefiting from) your spiritual gifts and example?

    “When I’m Sixty Four”

  • Friday, February 18, 2011
  • What if we finish our “race” only to discover that we still have fuel in our tank and tread on our tires?

    “Do you hear that rumble in the distance? That is the Baby Boomers—they are getting ready to retire. On January 1st, 2011 the very first Baby Boomers turn 65. Millions upon millions of them are rushing toward retirement age and they have been promised that the rest of us are going to take care of them. Only there is a huge problem. We don’t have the money…the day of reckoning that so many have talked about for so many years is here.” (from: The Coming Retirement Crisis That Will Drop Your Jaw)
    • Beginning January 1st, 2011 every single day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65…a phenomenon that will recur every single day for the next 19 years.
    • Retirement communities and complexes are sprouting up in virtually every neighborhood.
    • Leisure-life promises fill magazine ads and sidebar commercials on numerous websites.
    The finish line for so many of us who are American born and American reared has been birthday number 65. It was aimed for, it was dreamed of, it was promised. And the painful reality that the “finish line” is being moved, has created some pretty significant disappointment and frustration for many of our generation.
    • According to a recent survey, 24% of U.S. workers admit that they have postponed their planned retirement age at least once during the past year.
    • An AARP survey finds that “40% of Baby Boomers plan to work ‘until they drop’.”
    Now, if you immerse yourself in press releases and news commentaries and other culture shapers, you may quickly adopt an attitude of entitlement or of meritorious reward. “I’ve done my time. I’ve made my contribution. I’ve earned my rest!” And that spirit tends to silence the voice of the Spirit as He calls out to us from the Word.

    “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith…” Hebrews 12:1,2

    Or, “Not that I have already obtained it…but one thing I do, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature, have this attitude…” Philippians 3:14,15

    What if we finish our “race” only to discover that we still have fuel in our tank and tread on our tires?

    Is it possible that the “American Dream” has blurred the finish line? That we have ignored the glorious call of God to run to win, and to press on rather than slack off, and to give of ourselves as long as there remains something of ourselves to give? Where are the Caleb’s of our day who refuse to “finish” their race and just kick it back? “Now behold, the Lord has let me live these forty-five years…and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me…Now then, give me this hill country…with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken!” Joshua 14:10-12

    As Paul encourages Titus in the finishing work of the churches on Crete, he points him to an un-mined source of Christian service impact. Older men and older women! One of the great, untapped resources of the Baby Boomer church is her faithful members who are unwilling to embrace the American Dream finish line. They have tested truth and found it true. They have refused to simply love self and discovered instead that to give of themselves is the shortest route to unexplainable contentment/satisfaction. They have endured through life’s numerous and varied trials to discover that, because their God is faithful, hope endures. And suddenly, with disposable time on their hands, sustainable resources in their treasure, and fine-tuned skills in their tool-belt, they refuse to quit. For them the “finish line” toward which they press is not a retirement from life, but simply a retooling for great effectiveness in service. Their finish is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. So until He calls them home, they choose to give of themselves and to serve!

    What if we finish our “race” only to discover that we still have fuel in our tank and tread on our tires?

    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” 2 Timothy 4:7

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    Recipe for Church Leadership

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2011
  • Some suggest it would be simple to be a leader in a church. Pray a lot, look pius, make sure people aren’t doing bad things, argue over the songs to be sung, make sure the place is clean. As we venture further into Paul’s letter to Titus, chapter two does give us a good recipe for being a good church leader. Take a few moments right now and read Titus 2:1-10. In many ways, the guidance Paul was giving Titus was rooted in the lives of many leaders from the time before Christ.

    “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

    Now, let’s consider some of the ingredients in our recipe for church leadership.

    First, a good leader in the church today will teach from the Bible. Like Ezra, today’s church leader will have a biblical message which examines the Word of God and provide guidance from the scriptures and nothing else.

    Second, in all that he does, a good church leader will complement God’s plans. By examining God’s plans first, man’s plans can better fit in and complement them.

    Third, his ministry will bring healing and help to the people within the church. By following God’s Word and not trying to bring glory to himself, a good church leader will shine the light on God and thereby comfort people in the church.

    Fourth, a good church leader’s life will be openly transparent. If his motivation is to glorify God, then the leader can live a life that’s open to inspection by those around him. And, as people inspect the leader’s life, they’ll see God reflected in what he says and does.

    Fifth, the actions and teachings of a good church leader will calm troubled waters, not stir them up. Like a shepherd tending his sheep, a good church leader will seek to comfort people in the church so they can be free to live their lives in God’s will.

    A sixth part of our recipe isn’t so much an ingredient as it is a taste test. When a church leader makes a statement or takes an action, can you test their statement or action by searching the Scriptures to prove or approve it?

    The proper mix of these ingredients will result in a good church leader. The sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve find their lives when they embrace Christ’s death on the cross. They are not what they once were, they are sinners that become saints in the hands of God. The proof is in the pudding.

    Living Christian in Crete

  • Friday, February 11, 2011
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…”
    Romans 12:2

    Such is life in the hands of the Transformer. It is hard to believe what it was before!

    The pressure is continually increasing to blend in, to look just like, to fit the mold. Living on the isle of Crete would have been rather simple, IF the gospel had not arrested the heart. Spinning the facts to position oneself to the greatest personal advantage. Ignoring super-imposed rules and guidelines because the full expression of “self” promised more immediate gratification. Getting “fat” with minimum personal exertion. “Do not be conformed to the world,” was the Apostle’s warning label. It would be rather simple to live like those around, IF the gospel had not arrested your heart.

    But being Christian in Crete was not that simple. Every “natural”, reflexive response to small and large challenges must be retrained. Being Christian in Crete makes you conspicuous, different, intriguing, confusing, bothersome, discomforting, convicting. When self-willed and self-serving stubbornness would be the “natural” response, they would see humility and submission. When a harsh emotional retort would be the standard behavior, they would instead see reasonableness and agreeability. When bingeing out on self-gratification was the rule of the day, self-sacrificing kindness and unapplauded love would steal the light.

    Being Christian in Crete would be enormously counter-cultural. And that is exactly God’s strategy for radical life changes. To work so powerfully on the inside of those He would rescue from their bondage to their sin, that no one within their sphere of influence could fail to notice. It would be difficult to imagine what they once had been because of the transformation into what He had caused them to become. And the serious observer, seeing the amazing difference the gospel makes in the life of a rescued sinner, would have to ask, “Can you explain to me how this can be?”

    Being Christian in Lincoln, Nebraska is not markedly simpler. For, we too, feel the pressure to deceive in order to prosper, to throw off moral restraint in order to experience short-term pleasures, and to get the most we can for ourselves by doing the least we have to do for others. The pressure is continually increasing to blend in, to look just like, to fit the mold. But if the gospel has arrested our hearts, those within our sphere of influence will be moved to ask, “Can you explain to me how this can be?”

    Such is life in the hands of the Transformer. It is hard to believe what it was before!

    “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience…” 1 Peter 3:14-15

    Such is a life in the hands of THE Transformer. It is hard to believe what it was before!

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    Hey Diddle Diddle

  • Tuesday, February 8, 2011
  • When you first glance at this photo, it might bring back memories of that nursery rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon. But, look again. It’s a hot air balloon. That’s right, it’s a balloon made to look like a cow. Things aren’t always as they might first appear.

    There’s a message here about the false prophets among us. There are empty talkers and deceivers, teaching things they should not teach, they’re full of myths and commandments . . . hot air if you will.

    Paul wrote to Titus urging him to seek good leaders for the churches on Crete. The churches had been taken over by leaders who were upsetting whole families, teaching them things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. As our study has shown, Paul’s guidance was to seek first men of good character and equip them with the Word of God to put the churches back on the right track. Edward M. Bounds, a pastor in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s echoed Paul’s words when he noted, “While the church looks for better methods, God looks for better men!”

    “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.” 2 Timothy 2:22,23

    A false teacher can be much more deceptive than the balloon image of the cow. Today’s church can be challenged by people who may quote Scripture and seek to debate over seemingly important issues. And yet, those debates are often over matters that aren’t core to the Gospel. In his message to us on Sunday, Pastor Tom pointed out that there is a pure Gospel of saving grace provided by the finished and sufficient work of Christ. Then there are those “doctrines” which, while important, are not at the core of the message of saving grace. Perhaps it’s baptism, or the role of communion. While these are addressed in His Word, they are not core to the Gospel of Christ’s death for our sins. Finally, there are personal preferences that are not near the core. But some will argue that the style of music or even which version of the Bible you use for your study might impact your salvation. Truth or hot air?

    Leadership in His church is no nursery rhyme. When elders and deacons fail to feed, to lead and to protect, God’s flock is placed jeopardy. That’s why it’s so vital to have strong and committed leaders in the church. It was true for the churches of Crete and it’s true of the churches today. When men add works to grace they destroy the gospel, nullify grace and make impotent the saving power of the cross.

    What Elders MUST Do

  • Friday, February 4, 2011
  • You cannot lead from the rear! The task before any leader is to go before and establish a pattern for others to follow.

    Howard Hendricks, the great teacher and Christian education influencer, put it this way. “The lessons we desire to communicate are better CAUGHT than TAUGHT.” Twenty-five years ago, I first heard Jerry Bridge’s phrase, which is etched deeply into my memory. “Live a life worthy of imitation!”

    The first task before any leader, whether he is the father in a household, the supervisor on the assembly line, the coach on the bench, the Sunday School teacher in the elementary department or the Elder who shepherds the Church, the first task before any leader is to go before and establish a pattern for others to follow.

    Paul wrote to the Corinthian saints, “I exhort you, be imitators of me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16

    And when sending greetings, encouragement and thanks to the saints in Philippi, he said, “Join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” Philippians 3:17

    Peter, in his address to church leaders, picked up the same theme when he wrote, “…nor as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:3

    The daunting, sobering reality of the weight of leadership responsibility in whatever arena of service you have been placed, is the truth that you cannot lead from the rear. You MUST lead from the front. And the task before any leader is to go before and establish a pattern for others to follow.

    So we are driven by the seriousness of the pressures of leadership to ask, “How DO I set a pattern or walk in a manner worthy of imitation?” The answer is supplied when Paul penned, “Be imitators of me as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

    And the pattern YOU must follow is the example set by the Good Shepherd who said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

    You cannot lead from the rear! The task before any leader is to go before and establish a pattern for others to follow.

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    Raising the Bar of Character

  • Tuesday, February 1, 2011
  • Last week we established that the first thing the Lord suggests we search for when seeking a leader is character. When Paul wrote to Titus and asked him to establish leaders for the churches on Crete, the very first suggestion was for Titus to seek men who were above reproach, husbands of one wife, and children who believe and not accused if rebellion.

    This week, we listed some of the don’ts and do’s that help set the bar of what above reproach means. Looking first at the don’ts.

    1. Not self-willed - The list of things that identify a self-willed person includes arrogance, never making a mistake (or so they think), domineering, and lacking in grace.
    2. Not quick-tempered - If you’re touchy, often angry, quick to lose it then you might be quick tempered.
    3. Not addicted - The word addicted means sitting long by, or lingering with something. In this case it’s wine, but it could be defined today as any routine that done in excess could cause damage, even eating.
    4. Not pugnacious - Isn’t that a great word? It means eager to quarrel or fight. This couples only too well with quick tempered.
    5. Not fond of sordid gain - Put another way, G R E E D
    Now, what about the do’s on the list of things to look for in a leader for the church . . . or a leader in any aspect of life for that matter. Here are the things Paul suggests point to someone who would make a good leader in the church.

    1. Hospitable - Scripture is full of examples of hospitality ranging from the example of Abraham in Genesis 18 to Hebrews 13:2, you never know when an angel might be present.
    2. Loving what is good - Perhaps the best way to help define this item on the list is to suggest that you study the life of Christ. There’s no better example of one who loves what is good than Christ.
    3. Sensible - Sound in judgement, in control of things, keeping first things first are some of the qualities related to this guideline.
    4. Just - Doing what is right in God’s eyes.
    5. Devout - If you’re devout, you’re devoted to God, doing what is true to Divine direction, authentically pious.
    6. Self-controlled - A person who is in control of himself is one who has fleshly and earthly urges and passions under control.
    Now, if you don’t picture yourself as a leader, look at the picture again. We’re all leaders in one way or another. Some are called to lead from the front, others from the rear, and most of us are called to be leaders from the middle. John Maxwell, in his book The 360 Degree Leader notes that the true measure of leadership is influence. Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position. This list from Titus addresses disposition and gives us a list of God’s standards. God does not bless us so as to lower the bar of His standards, He graces us so as to enable us to jump the bar with His help.

    "And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful."  Titus 3:12